Health care industry leaders commit to ease EHR interoperability

March 07, 2016
Area(s) of Interest: Electronic Health Records Health Information Technology 

The nation's top health care information technology (IT) companies, the top five largest private health systems and more than a dozen leading health care provider, hospital, technology and consumer advocacy groups have committed to make electronic health record (EHR) interoperability and accessibility a priority, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

According to HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, 17 vendors who supply EHR systems to 90 percent of the nation’s hospitals and 16 of the largest hospitals and health systems agreed to stop the practice of "information blocking," to adopt a universal data language and to improve the systems so patients can easily monitor their health information.

These organizations agreed to three principles set out by HHS:

  • Consumer access: To help consumers easily and securely access their electronic health information, direct it to any desired location, learn how their information can be shared and used, and be assured that this information will be effectively and safely used to benefit their health and that of their community.
  • No information blocking: To help providers share individuals’ health information for care with other providers and with their patients whenever permitted by law, and to not block electronic health information (defined as knowingly and unreasonably interfering with information sharing).
    • Standards: To implement federally recognized, national interoperability standards, policies, guidance and practices for electronic health information and to adopt best practices including those related to privacy and security.
  • Hospital and health plan participants included Ascension Health, Geisinger Health System, HCA, Intermountain Healthcare and Kaiser Permanente. Professional organizations that have agreed to participate include the American Medical Association, American Hospital Association, American Academy of Family Physicians and American Health Information Management Association.

    In late December, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology at HHS released its newest iteration of an “advisory” on interoperability standards as “a single resource for those looking for federally recognized, national interoperability standards and guidance.”

    Burwell said health IT systems provide “crucial support” for providers through easy access to data and analytics in an effort to see the “big picture” of health care. 

    “Today's commitments are a critical first step,” Burwell said. “I look forward to all we will accomplish together, this week and beyond."

    HHS will check back in the fall to see how the companies are working toward the goal.

    To read more on the HHS interoperability pledge, click here or download an FAQ sheet here.


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